Firefly Music Festival Exclusive: A Conversation with ROZES

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Maybe you’ve never heard of ROZES, but you’ve definitely heard her. The Philadelphia native became a well-known artist when she lent her voice to a Chainsmokers song called “Roses.” The track was a huge success and opened up a whole new world for ROZES, one that she didn’t plan or expect.

We recently caught up with ROZES at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. The interview and portraits from our photographer can be found below.

So is this your first time playing Firefly?

ROZES: Yeah. So um, I came about two years ago because The Chainsmokers were playing “Roses” for the first time. So, then it like hurricaned so they didn’t play. [Laughs.] But yeah, it’s my first time playing Firefly. 

Is it living up to your expectations?

Yeah, it’s so fun. I mean I love it.  I’m a fangirl at heart. I’m excited to discover music.

So, I’m interested in hearing more about you as a person really, growing up in Philadelphia and how you think that your upbringing and the Philly music scene affected you as a musician. 

I grew up in like a very musical family. My dad is like a chemist, but he’s a guitar teacher on the side and so I guess that’s what made my whole family start in music. And I’m the youngest in my family, so when my brothers got into music, I was like “I wanna be just like them!” So they formed a band and started writing music, and I was like “I wanna do that, I wanna write music.” And then it just ended up actually being like my dream. So it was really cool, it was like my escape from everything. And then I went to Temple [University] for a year after going to community college for like nursing [Laughs.]. Why? I don’t know. 

The Philly scene is crazy. Like I would go during high school to open mic nights at World Cafe Live. And they have XPN there, so it’s such a huge outlet for Philly music — for indie artists. I think it’s developed me as a person because it’s such a popular scene. And I think that a lot of outside artists like Philly, and I mean if they’re not from Philly, they’re like “Oh wow, that’s a cool place to be!” I also think we have really cool venues. I’ve had some really awesome opportunities. Like, I opened for Teddy Geiger when I was 16. And like, Jesse Rubin,  all of these acoustic people that come through. I’ve just been riding the wave.

How did you get started? What was the first kind of big break?

My big break. Um, I wrote a song for this guy in Australia named Just A Gent and then that’s how The Chainsmokers found me because it went viral over there in Australia. Then, I wrote with The Chainsmokers and I guess that was my big break. I kind of wasn’t ready for it because my whole career I thought “Oh I’m just this girl. Like, I just think I can write music.” And then it actually happened and ended up on the radio and I’m like “What do I do? What’s life?” It just happened very quickly.

So I want to hear more about your experience as a female musician and especially a female in the electronic scene because I feel like there still needs to be a lot of work done there. 

Oh totally. This is something I’m constantly in a battle with. Because obviously my collaboration with The Chainsmokers has been like an infinity of opportunities, but it also is hard because I see them — one of the biggest artists in the world right now — and where am I? You know what I mean?

And it’s really hard because I know if I were a guy, it’d be like “Wow, let’s take our buddy along” or like “Come on tour and open up for us” You know? Things like that. But because I’m a girl, it’s kind of hard. There’s lines. You don’t know which ones you can cross and things like that. It just, it’s hard. And even walking around here you see guys coming out of these huge tour vans, like where are the women? You know? It really does suck because like — it’s funny that you actually thought this up because I’m constantly like in a battle with women in the industry.

But even in EDM, you have to draw a real safe environment for yourself. Especially performing because you know there’s a lot of drugs involved in the whole industry. You just really have to be careful in general. There’s a lot of factors that go into being a woman in the industry and especially in the dance world. Because people just assume that you’re a wild person if you like electronic dance music. You know? They assume you’re a partier, but really I was just this indie girl that ended up in the dance world.

And I feel like there’s so many more standards that we have to live up to.

Totally.

And tenfold for musicians.

Yeah totally. It’s tough because you hear a lot of stories like “Oh she just got there because she’s slept with someone”

And that’s like my most frustrating thing because why —like if that’s how it was, then why didn’t he just pay her? You know what I mean? It’s a frustrating thing.

You’ve received a lot of notable support from a bunch of magazines like NYLON and Entertainment Weekly. When those started coming through, what was that like for you?

I remember my publicist telling me that Marie Claire was going to premiere my single. “Under the Grave” I think? And I went absolutely crazy because 1) it’s a very women strong magazine and 2) I grew up reading it. When I saw that, I was like “Wait this is like really happening.” Especially because it wasn’t as a featured artist. I was in there because of who I am and what I sing. Not what I’m featured on and, you know, things like that. It just kind of blew my mind and it still does. It still blows my mind when I see that I’m in Entertainment Weekly and, like you said, NYLON. I just can’t.

Do you think there’s any difference between your EP and the music that you create yourself versus the stuff that you create as a featured artist or when you’re writing for other artists?

Yeah! I totally think so. My EP was very Lana Del Rey, symphonic-like, cinematic-type music. I really wanted to be a lot like Banks or an alternative, melodramatic kind of girl. And then when I wrote with The Chainsmokers, it kind of flipped my whole world upside down because I’m this emotional writer, but then I’m in this very happy song that you know people are partying to. You know, so now I have to adjust. Now I write music for myself that’s emotional lyrics, but I have like my reggae tone and my EDM elements just so that I can captivate those fans that I have gained along the way, but also keep the fans that I had before then.

When I write for other artists–it’s really hard to explain–but I kind of try to write stuff that’s universal, because if it’s anything that’s too deep, it’s like handing someone your diary and being like “Here, pretend you went through this” You know what I mean? So, If I’m writing for a specific artist, I’ll do heavy research on them to try to capt[ure] what they’re going through and touch on their feelings and things like that.

You have a summer tour coming up, and have a fall tour that hasn’t been announced yet. 

Yeah so I am touring this summer with AJR  and then with MAX in the fall. I have a new single coming out July 14th. I just signed to a label, Photo Finish Records. 

Yeah, so big things in the future!

Yeah! It’s happening! I’m really excited!